New committees give residents a voice in council decisions

Local people in H&F now have a crucial part to play in helping shape council policies, after the borough’s new administration took steps to give residents a greater voice in the decision-making process.

The newly-introduced Policy & Accountability Committees (PACs) involve councillors meeting with residents and community groups to discuss and develop key council policies. Each PAC, which anyone can attend, will ensure the decision-making process is as open, transparent and accessible as possible for residents – and give residents a public platform from which to hold the council’s executive to account.

PACs will produce recommendations relating to the topics under discussion before submitting them to council cabinet members to note or to decide upon. All PACs will have the power to appoint additional members from local communities and service-user groups. For example, a PAC could temporarily co-opt a residents’ association representative as an expert witness when considering housing issues or a market trader for local business issues.

There will be five PACs each sitting six times a year at the town hall and venues across the borough. The first one – the Economic Regeneration, Housing and the Arts Policy and Accountability Committee – took place earlier this week at Melcombe Primary School.

The five newly-established PACs are:

  • Finance & Delivery Policy and Accountability Committee. This will be chaired by Cllr PJ Murphy. Cllr Murphy has served as a councillor for the past four years and is a senior manager in a leading insurance company.
  • Children and Education Policy and Accountability Committee. Chair of this PAC is Cllr Caroline Needham, who has run services in the voluntary sector and local government. Her last job before retirement was managing social policy research for Help the Aged. Read more about the meeting on Tuesday (July 8) here.
  • Community Safety, Environment & Residents Services Policy and Accountability Committee. Its meetings will be chaired by Cllr Larry Culhane. Cllr Culhane has worked mentoring students at Phoenix High School, where he also serves as a governor. In summer months he volunteers at Shepherds Bush Cricket Club, coaching 5-16-year-olds.
  • Economic Regeneration, Housing & the Arts Policy and Accountability Committee. This will be chaired by Cllr Ben Coleman, who runs his own communications business. He is a governor of Queensmill School for autistic children in Fulham and was a governor for eight years at Jack Tizard School for disabled children in Hammersmith. Cllr Coleman also helped found the Big Splash charity for disabled children and their families in west London.
  • Health, Adult Social Care & Social Inclusion Policy and Accountability Committee. Chair of this PAC is Cllr Rory Vaughan. Cllr Vaughan has been an Askew councillor since 2006 and is a school governor at Pope John in White City.

Members of PACs will be expected to visit some groups outside of a formal committee meeting. For example the work of a care home for the elderly might best be understood through a site visit and a greater appreciation of the experiences of the borough’s looked after children might be gained through informal, one-on-one conversations in a less intimidating setting.

PACs cannot make decisions, but they can formulate council policy to recommend to the council's cabinet or advise the cabinet on their findings and observations. Significant council policies and initiatives will first be considered by a PAC prior to any decision being made.

For a given policy area or initiative, a PAC will review the issues by listening to expert witnesses such as resident representatives, external agencies and other public service providers. The PAC will then consider the budget allocation for the policy area and develop recommendations for cabinet consideration on how best to proceed.

In the event of a PAC recommendation being rejected, that PAC is entitled to a justification for the decision.

If you are interested in attending a PAC meeting or want to know more about becoming a PAC member, email Craig Bowdery at craig.bowdery@lbhf.gov.uk.

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